Strong Enough

Time and Slumber

Forgive me if I’m wrong but this looks like more than I can do on my own.
Lyrics – Matthew West ‘Strong Enough’

There are times in our life when we meet faith head on. I’m walking that path now. My gut says “hang on” but the tear ducts yell “run away”. It’s where all the things you’ve learned about yourself and the God you love meet at a crossroads of decision.

I know that I want to come through this having learned new levels of faith and strengthened muscles I probably didn’t know I had. I want to be ‘Strong Enough’ and not weak. One thing about crossroads is that they sometimes seem to be like a cloverleaf freeway on-ramp of possibilities. More than one decision faces you and the traffic seems heavy and fast. Its at these times that you need focus and good visibility.

This last weekend I wanted to find a quiet place to ‘hear’ more clearly. It wasn’t about the sound proofing of the closet, it was about finding time for me and God to hangout and talk things through. Thanks to an understanding wife and children I was able to have Saturday to do just that. For me the best place to think is a ‘drive’. So come Saturday morning I woke with only the concept of heading out for the day with God, my steering wheel and a tar sealed centre line.

Just before leaving home I had the idea of going to a wonderful beach spot a couple of hours away where 22 years ago my then girlfriend and I went to seek God on the whole idea of marriage. We were deeply in love but we didn’t know if this should go to the biggest commitment of marriage. We drove to this beach and together as well as individually we sought God in prayer and through His Word for  an answer. I think the greatest result of that day was the peace we received walking into our life together.

One of the things that set the tone for this day just past was checking my phone and seeing I had the entire Keith Green collection on it I set the playlist to ‘shuffle’ and let God drive the conversation through the music. The lyrics of the music brought me back to some home truth’s on my own commitment. Keith Green would have been the Lecrae of his time and it was just great to be back in sync with youthful passions through the music in the car. I remember at one point just asking the Lord to be with me in the car. I looked at the passenger seat beside me and saw that I had my shoulder bag and water bottle there. I felt they needed to be moved if Jesus was going to have a seat next to me so I took them off the seat. It was my way of inviting the Lord into that space beside me. I know this may sound slightly irreverent but for me it then felt I was on a road trip with Jesus. We were talking when we talked and listening to the Keith Green tracks as we went. Jesus, Me and Keith; it was quite a trip.

After a drive around the beach, taking photos of an aero-club meet and spending time overlooking the cliffs at an old Children’s Bible Camp I went to as a child, I then drove another hour to see my parents. My Dad was out so it was just Mum and I. Sometimes you need one on one time with someone close. Mum later said she found it a blessing that we were able to be together to talk and pray as just the two of us. Often my family and Dad are around and it was so it was just unique to have time with Mum. Her caring heart, wise counsel and spirit-led prayer were anchors in the day.

Although it was now late afternoon I didn’t feel it was time to go home so I set the GPS for a new destination on the opposite coast of New Zealand to Bethlehem, a small coastal town north of Tauranga. I knew some old friends were there but they didn’t answer their phone. I started the drive anyway as it is an enjoyable scenic drive. On arrival I felt to contact these old Youth Group Leaders and after a couple of calls connected with them via mobile. While they were an hour away from the direction I’d just come, they encouraged me to go to their house which they told me how to enter, and make myself at home. This was a blessing as I had an hour of total quiet to sit, pray and read. Here I demolished Philippians and was saturated with encouragement from Paul’s letter.

When my friends arrived I was falling asleep. Thankfully their smiles and conversation reignited the coals of my energy level and we spoke for about three hours. God speaking through friends who let go of their agenda and display God’s is powerful. They didn’t tell me what to do, they shared with me God’s heart for me, my future and my family. One of the best pieces of advice that was dropped into that conversation was to think on the attributes of God and His character. It was a drop of refreshing salve on the parched skin.

My drive home was a great time to finish the day singing in the car just out of a heart of gratitude for every aspect of the day. It was just before 1am when I walked through the door to a much needed bed.

The crossroad is still before me but I’m not driving alone. The words of Matthew West’s song ‘Strong Enough’ emphasise that journey.

 

Up to Heaven

Up to Heaven

I wrote this when the father of a family I knew passed away. It was hard to see a soft quiet godly man die and yet you knew he was going to be with His Lord and Saviour. Sometimes words fail to express what is being felt inside.

Up to Heaven

I knew a man, so strong with silent features

Quite a man

He loved his own so dearly and even me

Quite a man

It’s hard to understand why God led him by the hand

Up to Heaven

But deep inside we know it was a better place to go

Up to Heaven

 

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time is measured by the once
but pleasure by the pound
We forsake the hour's warning tide
Sit back with men feeling warm inside

Did Christ enjoy social expense
Or sit in critique at a neighbour's fence 
His time was ours he spent it well
Used healing hands to salvation tell

Why do you slumber instead of march
Is this gratitude, limbs stiff as starch
Accept what yours, forgiveness free of charge
Heaven's transport flown, not a deathly barge

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Reminders of You

Back in 1983-1987 I was profoundly blessed to be in a youth group run by Gavin and Liz Hockly. It was through this Te Awamutu Bible Chapel youth group called “Word of Life” that I learned lots, was challenged to ‘grow-up’ and also had the blessing of being able to try the gifts God has given me. Big apology to everyone I used as guinea pigs back then.

Recently I mentioned ‘The Box’, a records box of memories that had been missing for 10 years. A lot of the items were notes, poetry and newsletters I had kept from my youth group days. It was a habit that I would carry into the 90s as I ventured out into the world. I wouldn’t quite call it journaling because it didn’t have the consistency that I see in those who ‘know how to journal’. But it is a record of things I’m happy to remember.

Today I started at the top and opened up this box of memories. One of the first things I found were the hand written notes from a bible study evening I was leading. I loved using audio visual. It wasn’t unusual for me to want to ‘play a song’ or show a video (VHS people!) to get a point across.

On this night I had hand written the lyrics to a song ‘Reminders of You’ by Geoff Moore and the Distance from the 1992 CD “A Friend Like U”. Part way through I had made a note to pause the song and ask people to think on what reminds them of the Lord.

You know every day I drive home from work I have the privilege of taking an off-ramp that turns back on itself towards the west. I see the most dramatic sunsets and they always bring me back to God the creator who spoke the world into existence. I look on every beautiful burnt orange or red sunset blasting through the unique branches of our Australian gum trees and am reminded that the sunset I saw yesterday was taken down last night and God painted a new one today. I am grateful for His love and care, His creativity and the freshness I see that remind me that like it says in Lamentations 3, His ‘mercy’ is also new every morning.

The song is written by Jeff Silvey and Billy Simon.

Reminders of You

(Verse 1)
A cross on a chain
Or a thunder cloud rolling
A Bible in a hotel room
Or lights on an evergreen

Tombstones on the hillside
Or a little child laughing
Just to name a few
Reminders of you

(Chorus)
You abide in me, my hope my Lord
And I will not forget your name
Please keep sending me reminders of You

(Verse 2)
A table set for twelve
Or a northern star shining
A lazy Sunday afternoon
Or a cool mountain stream

A piece of bread with a red wine
A December snow falling
Just to name a few reminders of You

Wedding Vows Forever

photo_004 It’s often overlooked but Marriage isn’t a contract, its a covenant. If you are considering “tying the knot” with the ‘hunk’ or the ‘babe’ then take a moment to ask yourself is this for ‘convenience’ or ‘covenant’? Many enter into marriage particularly based on ‘young love’ for ‘the benefits’.

The longer I’m married I realise the benefits are on the end of giving not taking. That's where the difference is from a contract to a covenant. In a contract the parties keep taking until there is nothing left to take and then they walk away. Think on any commercial contract, any business deal and the objective is for a ‘win-win’ where both parties take as much as they can as fast as they can for as long as they can. Once there is nothing left to take the contract is dissolved and each party goes out looking for new fields to conquer.

photo_003 In covenant the parties give so that the agreement can last forever. In giving there is sustenance. In giving there is ebb and flow of strength and weakness. In giving there is hope beyond today. I am so grateful for a giving wife who has given in times of my weakness and loved when there was no love in return. Equally I am grateful for the love and appreciation I have for her where I can hold her, nurture her, encourage her and provide for her just because of who she is. Last night I lay in bed praying for her, thinking of 18years of marriage and how beautiful she is today.

photo_002 Today we did some picture hanging that included some wedding photos. One framed piece is of our hands with our wedding rings and either side are printed our wedding vows from 1991. Cheryl had the photos and the vows made up for a surprise Wedding anniversary present for me a couple of years ago. I share them with you today because of their increased significance to me. Cheryl and I wrote our own vows and they continue to show our love, our faith and our commitment.

My Vows;

Cheryl, I love you for your beauty and wisdom. I want all our friends and relations to listen to these vows I make today. Before our loving God, family and friends I pledge: To love you in body, person and spirit,
To provide for a home that we build together
as a haven of love,
To hold you tight when you cry,
To hold you soft as together we lie,
And to hold you high as you try to be all you desire.
I pray that I will lead our home as Christ led the church. Not for power but to secure you each hour. So together we can grow and learn to love each other more.

Cheryl, encouraging and forgiving one another in love, help me see this marriage last forever. I give you this ring as a token of my love. Let it symbolise the circle of family and friends who supported us today.

 

Cheryl’s Vows;

Andrew, I love you more than words can ever express. On this very special day which will always be with us, I pledge in the presence of our loving Father in heaven, family & friends:
That I will always love you no matter what highs & lows we may go through.
I promise always to care for you & meet your needs as our Father in heaven does without fail.
I will always be your companion as well as your friend who you can always depend on in your times of distress & happiness.
I pray that the trust that has been accomplished between us will continue to grow as we travel down life’s narrow road, that our love will grow as we learn to give and take so we will overcome any difficulties.
I know with Christ in our hearts & standing with us at our side our marriage will last forever.
Therefore this ring I give you is a symbol of my love as it signifies love which is unconditional & eternal just as our Father’s love is for us.

 

Please forgive the hastily taken photos off my iPhone. They were a little out of focus from the photos in our Wedding Album. I wanted to put something up here in this blog that reminded me of the significance of the 23rd March 1991. I will get some better resolution photos up in the coming days.

Update: After posting this I thought of the scripture in Ephesians chapter 5.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The people at www.covenantmarriage.com have put together a few challenging and helpful descriptions of the identifiers of a covenant marriage relationship.

Elements of a Covenant Relationship

Covenants are the fruit of a loving, faithful relationship. The vows we exchange at our wedding reflect a relationship already bound by steadfast love and faithfulness. The degree in which these words have meaning comes in direct proportion to the unconditional love that dwells within our heart for the one to whom we are repeating them.

Covenant partners take responsibility for their actions. As partners in a covenant marriage relationship, we are responsible for our actions. An example would be to remain “sexually pure” in our thoughts and actions towards our spouse.

Covenants are based on freedom of choice. Covenant marriages are not built on coercion, deceit, and manipulation. Wives, submission is freely given and grows from respect, not fear and manipulation. In like manner, husband, choose daily to love your wife “as Christ loved the church.” You must freely choose to love and honor her in spite of the fact that you may not “feel” like loving and honoring her.

Covenants are rooted in actions based on choices, not feelings. Our feelings are forever fluctuating. Therefore to build a covenant marriage on feelings is to build it on shifting sand, which cannot support the foundation of marriage.

Covenant partners nurture their relation-ship. Our marriage will grow as we build up one another in love. This takes place when we value our spouse more than ourselves. As we experience the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, we are able to love our spouse as He loves us. Covenant partners administer unconditional love, forgiveness, and reconciliation while providing comfort and hope to their partner.

Covenants are based on commitments freely offered A covenant is built on selfless love, freely given and freely received. As strange as it may sound, a covenant marriage is one in which the “tie that binds” the couple together is a commitment freely offered with no strings attached. Paul said it well: “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Merely a Human Being?

This morning I was reading 2 Corinthians 5 and learning more of our Lord’s plan for us and our misconceptions of His son. It really hit me to consider how we have evaluated Christ in the same way we have considered one another. Isn’t it easy to put God in a box, convenient yet a concern.

If we truly think that the God, creator of the universe will fit in our box, either our small mindedness has lost sight of the universe or we have placed ourselves in the position of being controller of the box and thus in control of God.

In reading 2 Cor 5:15 I saw the error of our assumption. It then came home in verse 7 where the challenge of believing by faith comes home.

Lord,
Thank you for your creative love
Made me, redeemed me
Bless the name of Jesus
Called me, cleansed me

Find me and purify my heart
Not lost, ever watched
Believing in a sacrificial son
Never seeing yet convinced

One day taken Heaven bound
Final home and body found
While still here let me declare
Tent of ruin losing hair

Jesus, Saviour, maker, mine
Impacts life from the divine
God looks on His son endowed
To walk and talk, bring reconciled

For God made Christ the son
To be the offering, the only one
Wiped out our debt, our sin, my bad
Bringing us back home to Dad

:- Andrew Pitchford 30/10/2007

Great chapter! Read 2 Corinthians 5 now and be amazed.